Despite 26 From Riller, Cougars Come Up Short in Second Half
By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer
After losing 83-79 on their home court last season, the VCU men's basketball team came to Charleston seeking revenge. Trailing by eight points at the half, the Rams used gritty defense to stifle CofC offensively, downing the Cougars 76-71 before 3900 plus fans at TD Arena Wednesday night.
If was a tale of two halves for CofC. The Cougars shot lights out in the opening period, making good on 9 of 13 from long distance, heading into the locker up 46-38 after shooting 68% from the field. But the offense fell flat after intermission leaving the Cougars to suffer their second straight loss, with the team falling to 5-6 on the season. VCU improve to 9-2 overall.
CofC Head Coach Earl Grant said the team didn't play 40 minutes of Cougar basketball. "We executed the game plan in the first half, but in the second half, we didn't handle the press like we needed to. That's how they (VCU) scored their points. We knew they would thrive off of points off of turnovers."
Brevin Galloway who finished with 15 points for the Cougars, lit up the scoreboard inside the first 15 seconds, draining from beyond the arc. But an 11-5 run soon found VCU up 11-5 with four minutes gone by. The Cougars would rally. When Grant Riller drove the lane twice he tied the contest at 14 apiece.
The teams would trade baskets for several minutes before a rare four point play by Riller put CofC up 29-26 with just under 8 minutes remaining in the half. Charleston stretched the lead to 35-26 at the 5:56 mark. Another bomb by Galloway before the buzzer went off allowed the Cougars to take a 46-38 lead into the locker room.
Oftentimes with defenses focusing on Grant Riller, Galloway says he finds additional opportunities to score as he did early in the contest. "The flow of the game. I felt in the beginning of the game, I was getting open, getting to my spot and my shots up for 10 minutes in the first half. Whenever I got my shots, I tried to help the team anyway I could."
VCU mindful of the loss a year ago on their court came out after the break with renewed purpose. Using a full court press, and double teaming players, the Rams fought their way back taking the lead (54-52) near the 12 minute mark. Another 8-3 run provided the visitors a seven point margin with 8:28 left on the clock.
The Cougars had little to answer with, as VCU kept up the pressure going up by as many as 12 points before the Cougars got within two possessions. But it was too little too late for home team. What hurt the Cougars were second chance points off rebounds. The Rams grabbed 11 offensive boards, leading to 15 points. Overall the Rams outscored the Cougars 42 to 16 in the paint.
Coach Grant wishes the team had a time to revisit a moment in the contest. "They had a stretch where it was like a 10-0 run. We have to learn from that. It sucks we can't replay those two minutes (in the second half). We played well enough to win a game like this, but give them credit. They did what they needed to do to win the game."
Riller who had a game high 26 points agreed with his coach. "I don't think we played out of character. I think that's what we are capable of. Shots fell tonight and we were playing pretty good defense. In the second half, I feel like for a couple of minutes there, we were kind of lackadaisical with the basketball and they kind of ramped up the pressure. It forced us to have turnovers. You have to give credit to them."
VCU was lead by three players in double figures with Marcus Santos-Silva doing a lot of damage underneath the basketball. He finished with a team best 17 points. He had help from De'Riante Jenkins and Marcus Evans chipping 16 apiece for the Rams. Zep Jasper knocked in two from 3-point range finishing the game with 10 points for the Cougars.
CofC will close out non-conference play against South Carolina State on Saturday, Dec. 21 at 4 p.m. (ET) at TD Arena, before the start of CAA play on the road at the end of the month. Tickets can still be purchased to the game by calling (843) 953-COFC or going online at: www.CofCSports.com/tickets